I’m sat writing this on a Sunday night; the Sunday night before I start my 50th week in training to be a clinical bioinformatician. 50 weeks sounds like a long time – and it is. And I’ve learnt so much, both technically and professionally. So, with almost 1/3 of my training down, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on this time and share a brief overview of my journey so far.
T minus 1 week
In all honesty, before I started the Scientist training programme I don’t think I really knew what I was getting myself into. The week before I started I was frantically trying to find a place to live in Exeter and find a way to coherently answer the question “so what exactly does a bioinformatician do?”, without really thinking too much about what it actually was that I was expected to do. Fear. Excitement. Anticipation. All accurate ways to describe the cocktail of emotions swirling around inside of me.
Imposter syndrome. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re either very, very lucky or lying. I probably spent my first month, at least, in the department scared out of my mind that someone was going to figure out that I had somehow tricked the selection process and they had hired the wrong person. So, I just want to say: if you’re reading this as a new trainee who feels this way- it is normal. However, the selection process is robust and you are interviewed and your application is reviewed by many people. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t meant to be.
My first week involved meeting the members of my department, boring but necessary trust inductions and orientation within the department. With my knowledge of genetics probably not quite where it should be, the next 3 years looked a little bit like a giant unscalable mountain. But I felt ready for the challenge and wanted to prove to myself more than anyone else that I could do this.
50 weeks later
I’m not going to tell you the technical things I’ve learned. No one wants to read a list of how I have spent months on end battling with databases, or learnt more about how a MRI scanner works than I ever wanted to know. What I do want to share, is the biggest lesson I have learnt over the course of this year and it is about asking for help. This is something people talk about a lot. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help”, “if you’re unsure, just ask” – cool no problem, I’ll just go ahead and admit to a bunch of experts that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
Well I am here to tell you: no one has a clue what they are doing until they are taught how to do it. And while I fully advocate figuring things out on your own if you can, there is only so far googling things can get you. I wasted so much time being afraid to ask for help, for fear of looking stupid. But I didn’t look stupid. Do you want to know what I did look like? A trainee. That’s right- someone who is in their first year of training that no one expects to know everything. Frankly, if you’re not asking questions people will probably have more concerns.
So that’s a whistle stop tour of my first year experience. I hope that other trainees can relate to this and know that you aren’t the only one who might have some doubts from time to time. For new trainees I hope you’re excited about how much you’re going to learn and grow over the next year and for anyone else I hope you enjoyed reading about my emotional rollercoaster over the last year!
Until next time.
2 thoughts on “STP Reflections | Year 1 | Jes”
Great to read this and good luck with your career development. Your question “so what exactly does a bioinformatician do?” could really be applied to any speciality and I think we all have to go back and re-ask this question periodically. One answer in the clinical context, is “enable teams to handle data for clinical benefit”.
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I can definitely relate to impostor syndrome! Still get it constantly and I wanted to quit the MSc Genomic Medicine on day 1! I will try and bear in mind that I should approach everything like its brand new and not just nod and go ‘uhuh’ when someone asks “do you understand?”